As tomorrow marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, it is important that we consider the violence and abuse women face on a daily basis, not only at work, but in their everyday lives.

In general terms, the day concentrates on physical, sexual and psychological abuse, including:

  • domestic violence
  • sexual violence and harassment
  • human trafficking

What abuse do women face at work?

Unfortunately, sexual harassment in the workplace is a common occurrence.

According to a recent report from the Fawcett Society, at least 40 per cent of women have experienced some form of harassment at work.

However, Andrew Bazeley, policy, insight and public affairs manager at the Fawcett Society, says the majority of sexual harassment in the workplace goes unreported.

“That’s something that employers should be holding quite firmly in their minds,” he says. “The idea that you are at best seeing about a fifth in terms of reports of actual incidents of unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace.”

How should this be tackled by employers?

There are many ways workplace harassment and violence can be recognised and handled swiftly. These include:

1. Altering the culture

Promote more women to leadership roles and improve the equality, diversity and inclusion within the company.

2. Changing policies

Clearly define what sexual harassment is in the workplace, setting out what you are doing to prevent this.

3. Anti-sexual harassment training

Feature manager training as well as training for the entire business. Bystander training can also be effective so people can report what they see rather than the responsibility being solely on the victim of the incident.

4. Encouraging reporting

Provide multiple options to make a report, both formally and informally. This could be through phone lines or an online system, for example. The option to report anonymously should also be considered.

5. Responding to reports

Employers need to take all reports of harassment seriously, clearly stating that an investigation will be made, and there will be consequences if the report has been substantiated.

What should you do if you think an employee is experiencing domestic abuse?

Signs in the workplace that someone may be experiencing abuse at home include:

  • Frequent emailing or texting; they could be responding to controlling or abusive messages.
  • Looking anxious if they need to stay longer than their contracted hours; their partner may monitor what time they get home.
  • Being frequently anxious; perhaps they have injuries they want to hide.
  • Changes in behaviour; they could seem more reserved, sleep deprived and lacking concentration.

It’s vital that employers are mindful of these signs, providing support, and referring employees to the appropriate help where necessary.

What next?

The workplace is often a safe space for somebody experiencing abuse, as it is likely the only time they can be separate from their abuser.

In turn, this becomes the place they feel they are able to ask for and access support.

Are you equipped to provide that support? Let’s make a change.